Missouri Execution Stayed by Supreme Court Justice Alito: Report

Friday, 23 May 2014 12:02 PM

By Michael Mullins

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The Missouri execution of convicted murderer Russell Bucklew has been delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The stay of execution was granted late Tuesday after Bucklew's attorney successfully argued that it would cause his client "excruciating" pain due to a health condition from a rare birth defect.

Bucklew reportedly suffers from cavernous hemangioma, which results in unstable tumors in his head and neck causing frequent bleeding from his nose, eyes, and mouth. Bucklew's lawyers claimed that malformed blood vessels in his body could rupture under stress, causing the drugs administered during execution to circulate improperly and cause undue suffering, Reuters reported.

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"Significantly, the unique risks posed by the hemangioma create a substantial likelihood during lethal injection — with any drug — of hemorrhaging, choking, airway obstruction, and suffocation," Bucklew's lawyer Cheryl Pilate said in court papers.

Pilate's argument was strengthened by an affidavit filed by Dr. Joel Zivot of Emory University, who wrote that Bucklew's airway is so "severely compromised and obstructed," especially when he's lying flat, that it could easily be ruptured, raising the risk that Bucklew could choke or suffocate, CNN reported.

"If you touch it, it bleeds," Zivot added, referring to Bucklew's airway.

In the decision, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, "Bucklew's unrebutted medical evidence demonstrates the requisite sufficient likelihood of unnecessary pain and suffering beyond the constitutionally permissible amount inherent in all executions."

"The irreparable harm to Bucklew is great in comparison to the harm to the state from staying the execution," they concluded.

The 46-year-old was convicted in 1997 of kidnapping and first-degree murder for having fatally shot Michael Sanders, his ex-girlfriend's presumed new boyfriend. Bucklew also reportedly kidnapped his ex-girlfriend Stephanie Ray Pruitt and raped her, before wounding a state trooper in a subsequent gunfight.

In the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, the court document said that Bucklew's stay of execution will remain in effect until the 8th Circuit Court's rules on the matter, CNN reported.

In response to the decision, Michael Sanders' mother Dorothy was not happy, telling NBC News, "I'm not too thrilled."

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